The renowned Indian film singer SP Balasubrahmanyam has died of Covid-19.
His death came following hospitalization in Chennai, India, and weeks spent on life support for pneumonia. He was 74.
On Friday, his hospital said, “This morning, despite maximal life support measures and the best efforts of the clinical team, his condition deteriorated further and he suffered a cardio-respiratory arrest.”
Tributes have been pouring in from celebrities and fans around the world.
The singer recorded for more than 50 years and was a Guinness World Record holder for his more than 40,000 songs.
His catalogue covers everything from romantic numbers to dance tracks. He sang some of Indian cinema’s best-known songs, in 16 languages. He was most famous as a playback singer where actors lip-sync to his voice.
Popularly known as SPB, he was born in 1946 into a middle-class family from Nellore in Andhra Pradesh. He moved to Chennai after he was spotted at a music talent competition.
He said: “I planned to be an engineer but then music turned the course of my life. I realised not to plan and let things play out for me.”
He began his playback career in Tamil and Telgu cinema in southern India and his first major breakthrough came when he sang for Tamil superstar MG Ramachandran in the 1969 film Adimai Penn.
“Singing for a superstar like him changed how the Tamil film world looked at me,” he said.
He went on to become the first singer to crossover into Bollywood and achieve fame there too. His first big Bollywood hit was in 1981 when he sang for the film Ek Duuje Ke Liye (We Are Made For Each Other).
Bala was the highest paid singer in southern India and was kept busy working in the national film industry from the 1970s up to the present day.
At the height of his fame fans would write to him using their own blood for ink.
He was awarded two of India’s top civilian honours, Padma Shri in 2001 and Padma Bhushan in 2011.
Critic VAK Ranga Rao once said, ”Balasubrahmanyam is a phenomenon. He has a fine voice which always sings true. He has a deep awareness and a basic feel for the aesthetics of film music and a raging enthusiasm and respect for the art.”
According to figures from Johns Hopkins University, India has recorded more than 5.8 million coronavirus cases, including 92,290 deaths, since the start of the pandemic.